You Should Never Order Orange Chicken At Panda Express. Here's Why.

Fast-casual American Chinese restaurant empire Panda Express is an American success story. Founded in Glendale, California by college sweethearts Andrew and Peggy Cherng in 1973, the United States's largest chain of Chinese restaurants now has more than 2,000 locations worldwide and racks up more than $3.5 billion in annual sales, according to Forbes.

Popular items such as broccoli beef, grilled teriyaki chicken, black pepper Angus steak, and firecracker shrimp are top sellers, but all come in second to the king of the Panda Express menu, orange chicken. The dish was invented in Hawaii in 1987 by Panda Express's executive Andrew Kao (via NPR). The fast food chain sells an astounding 100 million pounds of the entree each year.

What's the secret to Panda Express's delicious orange chicken? In a video for UberEats, the company's Director of Product Development, Jimmy Wang, credits the dish's "right balance of sweetness and acidity plus a touch of heat and savoriness." Also making this a stand-out bestseller is its starring ingredient: dark chicken meat, which, as opposed to its leaner white counterpart, stands up to frying without becoming dry — and, as everyone knows, delivers a more "chickeny" flavor. 

So why not order the orange chicken?

While it's not a the worst back-of-the-house secret ever revealed, posting on Reddit, a self-proclaimed Panda Express employee had this to say: "You should never order orange chicken. Yeah it might be the most popular item, but sometimes when it isn't busy, and the food get [sic] dried up, we put uncooked sauce on it to make it more moisturized. Even my manager says its [sic] ok, as long as I do not do it in front of the customers. Panda Express is disgusting."

But the biggest reason not to order the orange chicken? It's one of the least healthy choices on the Panda Express menu, with 490 calories — and that's before you add the rice. Moreover, the delicious orange sauce owes its sweetness less to fresh oranges than to the 19 grams of sugar it contains. Finally, its battered and fried preparation makes it less healthy than other options such as the black pepper chicken, which has 280 calories and just 7 grams of sugar. While orange chicken might be the tastiest item on the menu, there are better choices.